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Game Journal: Game 27 - Maple Leafs vs. Blues

by Chris Lund / Toronto Maple Leafs

4:20 PM: Tonight's officials will be Kevin Pollock and Ian Walsh, while Ryan Galloway and Tim Nowak will be the linesmen. Those looking to tune in can watch on Hockey Night in Canada, listen on TSN 1050 and follow the Leafs on Twitter.

Paul Hendrick and Joe Bowen check in from St. Louis to get you set for tonight's game.

4:15 PM: Here are tonight's projected lineups for the Maple Leafs and Blues.

Toronto Maple Leafs

24 Holland - 43 Kadri - 47 Komarov
21 van Riemsdyk - 42 Bozak - 15 Parenteau
26 Winnik - 16 Spaling - 40 Grabner
23 Matthias - 56 Froese - 28 Boyes

51 Gardiner - 3 Phaneuf
2 Hunwick - 44 Rielly
52 Marincin - 46 Polak

31 Sparks
30 Bibeau

St. Louis Blues

12 Lehtera - 26 Stastny - 91 Tarasenko
20 Steen - 42 Backes - 36 Brouwer
23 Jaskin - 93 Gomez - 15 Fabbri
9 Ott - 28 Brodziak - 75 Reaves

19 Bouwmeester - 27 Pietrangelo
22 Shattenkirk - 55 Parayko
4 Gunnarsson - 41 Bortuzzo

34 Allen
1 Elliott

4:05 PM: Here is Leafs TV with Morgan Rielly following today's morning skate in St. Louis.

4:00 PM: Leafs goaltender Garret Sparks gets the start in St. Louis tonight. Here's what he had to say after today's morning skate...

Leafs TV

On the opportunity tonight:

I'm really excited. It's pretty close to my hometown, reasonably close and I have a bunch of family and friends in the stands so I'm looking to get back at it and have another opportunity to play my game and try and win the hockey game.

On the last start:
I had good parts and bad parts and it's just a matter of not getting too high or too low. The puck goes past you and you have to shrug it off and make the next save. That's something I've always said and something I lost sight of. Learn from it and move on.

How much of a whirlwind has this been?
It's been pretty crazy but I've enjoyed every second of it. It really hasn't been bad at all.

What's it like being in an NHL dressing room next to Antoine?
I think it's just a testament to the hard work we've both put in this season and during the offseason. I think anybody you talk to will tell you that we're two guys who are dedicated to our craft and being better. It's nice to get this as a little reward.

What's the message to the Marlies when they see you guys up here?

Anybody can do it.

What has stuck out the most so far from your NHL stint?
Like I said, I've been high and I've been low now. I guess it's a lot of seasoning for two games so I'm appreciative of that. I think I just have to play hockey, I've been doing it for years and it's another hockey game.

3:30 PM: Leafs centre Nick Spaling spoke with Leafs TV ahead of his 400th NHL game on Saturday. Here's what he had to say...

Leafs TV

What's it like to get to 400 NHL games?
It's awesome, obviously the time flies by but it's pretty exciting. It's a number as a kid that you don't expect to get to. It's a lot of games so I'm just going to enjoy it tonight and have fun.

On his journey to this point:
Everybody's path is different to get here. There are so many ways to get here and you've just got to enjoy it. Looking back, I wouldn't change it and I'm just glad I got to where I am. I'm just enjoying every day and going to have fun out thee.

On facing a Ken Hitchcock coached team:

It's a team that I played a lot against in the past and they're just a team that forechecks well and don't give you a lot of space and time out there. It's about trying to create your own space but at the same time putting pucks behind them and trying to get in their end.

How do you approach a game where the lines have been tweaked?
It's a different game when you get different linemates, I think ours is staying the same tonight but you've got to go out there with the same mindset and have a plan before the game. Just make sure guys are talking and everyone knows what to do. You get a new opportunity.

What's the key to your longevity in the league?

It's just about trying to stay healthy is the big thing in this League now. It's tough to play those full years. It's about taking advantage of the time you've got and continuing to work hard.

On the defensive end of the game:

Obviously a big part of my game is playing the defensive side and just staying on that and growing my game from there.

3:00 PM: Leafs head coach Mike Babcock spoke to the media in St. Louis on Saturday. Here's what he had to say...

Leafs TV

On the goaltending situation:
Reimer has re-aggravated his injury, Benier played in the minors last night. Reimer is not available to us, Bernier could be available to us. I made the decision that we're going to stick with our plan with Bernie, he got a shutout last night and felt good about himself in a win. We'll continue with the process there. We're fortunate with the schedule, we play today and we play in a couple of days and then we don't play again until the 15th. You saw this morning, Sparks and Bibeau will carry the load for the Leafs.

Do you hold Reimer out until the third game next week?
I thought I just went through it. There's two guys that are available for us for the next two games and then we'll do exactly what we did. We'll try to go through proper protocols with our trainers, with our medical science team, make the decision in the end. Reims was shilling like crazy to play in Winnipeg, because of the Carey Price thing, we've been through it already, we tried to be more diligent, we wanted to make sure he didn't spasm, we waited another day in end. When you look back in hindsight you always say gee we could give it more time but that's the problem with pro sport, when you make that decision. In the end the athlete has got to decide when his body is ready to go. Everybody thought he was ready to go and obviously he wasn't because he's back where he was.

Happy that Bernier got the shutout?
Really good for Berns, really good for our organization. I know this isn't you guys thinking but for me when I see Timashov get five points, Marner gets a hat trick and Nylander gets two and Sosh gets two, that doesn't probably mean a whole lot to you guys and the fans but it means a lot to me. That was a big night for our organization. We need Bernie back, let's not kid ourselves. It would be easy to bring him back right here, right now and say okay but I'd much rather he gets his four opportunities that he has and make good on it, feel good about himself and come back and be who he's capable of being. In the meantime a little short term pain is for that. In saying that, Sparks, let's be who you are see how good Bibeau is on the faceoff chart and go from there.

On the week off:
You know how I complain about it all the time? I'm pumped about it right now.

Is the line juggling to kickstart some offence?
That's it. We thought we played -- when you go through the scoring chances the last game we thought we did a lot of good things and limited their chances and you'd like to walk out of the building with a win but we didn't. So, when you look at the chances we're generating and they don't go in, we've got to find a way to score more. St. Louis doesn't want to give you very much. I watched that game last night and it was really nice. I was laying in bed for the third and overtime knowing they were having overtime and a long flight in. I thought it was perfect. Get Hitch a little wound up, which will be great and let's get ready to play.

Are these two of the tougher centres tonight in terms of power on the puck and winning draws?
When you play top notch centres each and every night, that's what the League is. If you want to be a top centre in the League you've got to look at the guy across from you and outplay him. Just being a fan and watching hockey, I always liked when Sakic and Forsberg would play against Fedorov and Yzerman. I thought that was real hockey. Those were men out there competing for every inch and that's what it is if you want to be a top two centre in the League.

How does Rielly change the look of the power play?
It wasn't very good last game so we'll give it another go here tonight. That's a good question. I'd rather play the four forwards to be honest with you but right now, Froese was on it and he got the puck back and did a good job but then the penalty kill wasn't as good. I want Froese, he's going to stay in the League penalty killing, not playing on the power play. I want him to do what he does and do it well. We wanted to get [Rielly] there eventually, it wasn't going to be right away here but even this morning it wasn't as smooth as we'd like to be so we'll make a little adjustment. St. Louis is hard on the penalty kill.

2:00 PM: The Toronto Maple Leafs return to action on Saturday night when they take on the St. Louis Blues at Scottrade Center.

The Leafs are coming off of a 1-0 loss in Minnesota on Thursday night. James Reimer stopped 27 of 28 shots in the loss but will be day-to-day for the Leafs. Garret Sparks will get the start for Toronto, while Antoine Bibeau was recalled by the Leafs on Friday night and will serve as the backup.

The Blues last played on Friday night and fell to the New York Islanders by a 2-1 score in the shootout. Kevin Shattenkirk scored the lone Blues goal in regulation while Brian Elliott made 24 saves in the loss. Jake Allen will get the start against the Leafs.

Stay tuned for projected lineups, comments from Coach and the Leafs and more.

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